Monday, January 17, 2005

How to get published or die trying

Every week I get at least one e-mail from someone who is desperate to learn the secrets to getting published. The notes usually go something like this: Brenda, I loved your book, and I know I could write one like it if somebody would just give me a chance. Can you tell me how to get published?

I'm always tempted to answer: Absolutely. Just write a great story and mail it to an editor. All the best, Brenda.

Of course I try to give them a little more help than that. But it's frustrating, because "How do I get published?" isn't a question that can be answered in an e-mail message.

What these nice folks are looking for simply doesn't exist. There is no "secret" to getting published. Neither is there a handy list of steps that, if followed scrupulously, will ensure a writer attains her goal.

Currently, nine pages of my website are devoted to the subject of writing romance and getting it published. Yet all that advice about query letters, formatting manuscripts, and writing synopses is no more than a starting place. The bottom line is that an aspiring author will face a seemingly endless array of obstacles that must be climbed over, tunnelled under, or knocked down. And while others may give hints and tell stories about how they managed it, getting published is something that every writer must ultimately do on her own.

It's sort of like having babies. Even if you haven't been through it, you must be aware that it's a hideously long and painful process. I did it twice, without drugs. And although the doctors were there and the nurses were there and my wide-eyed, terrified husband was there, all of them offering advice and shouting instructions, in the end it came down to me and the baby, struggling together. Nobody else in that room knew what we were feeling, not even the women who had given birth to babies of their own, because this was my baby and my time. The other moms' experiences might have been similar to mine, but they were not the same.

I can tell you the steps I took to publication, but while that information might be helpful to you, don't think for a minute that you have only to follow in my footsteps to achieve the same results. This is your story and your time; it won't be exactly the same for you as it was for me.

And that's a good thing. Because when you do succeed, you'll know the victory is yours (by God's grace) and that nobody can ever take from you.


Heather said...

You are so right it is a hideously long and painful process. Of which I am still going through. But as to people wanting to know your process, it is encouraging to see the process that others go through. to know that it does happen and that the pain and suffering pays off.
And whoever is reading this and hasn't read Brenda's 9 pages on her website about getting pubbed, I highly recommend that you do!

Brenda Coulter said...

Thanks, Heather.

Voix said...

Thanks for the unflinching dose of reality. Writing is hard work, and you have to love it to get to publication. I'm still hammering away at technique and it is wonderful to know that those people out there with their own titles on the shelves are just normal everyday people with good stories to tell and lots of practice.